Tomorrow, Sunday, April 24, marks the 32nd birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope. Since its launch in 1990, the telescope has helped uncover secrets of the universe as well as produced some absolutely stunning images of space.
NASA has released a video about Hubble’s birthday, including an overview of some of the things the telescope has imaged and discovered in the last few months and years. That includes recently measuring the largest comet ever seen and observing the weather on Jupiter and Saturn, including how the storm which makes up Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is getting faster and Saturn’s bands of atmosphere are changing colors. In addition, study of two of Jupiter’s moons — Ganymede and Europa — showed that they have water vapor in their atmospheres.
And that’s just within the solar system. In the Milky Way, Hubble has imaged creepy star CW Leonis, taken an ultraviolet image of planet PDS 70b, and seen an expanding bubble of gas near the heart of our galaxy. Further out into the cosmos, Hubble has spotted a black hole that seems to be helping stars to form instead of destroying them, solved the mystery of a mirrored double galaxy, and detected the farthest star ever seen, whose light had taken nearly 13 billion years to reach us.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 32nd birthday with a stunning look at an unusual close-knit collection of five galaxies, called the Hickson Compact Group 40. This snapshot reflects a special moment in their lifetimes as they fall together before they merge. NASA, ESA, and STScI
In addition, Hubble scientists shared one more beautiful Hubble image for the telescope’s birthday, showing a group of five galaxies that are unusually packed together. The Hickson Compact Group 40 consists of three spiral galaxies, one elliptical galaxy, and one lenticular galaxy, all of which are so close together they will eventually collide together and merge into one large galaxy.
While other similarly dense galaxy groups have been observed near the centers of huge galaxy clusters, this group is unusual for being located in a relatively empty area of space, leading astronomers to wonder why the group is so squished together. One theory is that large amounts of dark matter are clouded around the galaxies, slowing their movements and holding the group together.